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Below is Part V in our video program “Conservatism and the Western Tradition.” This is the final segment in this discussion here at The Imaginative Conservative. (Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV) Please visit The Imaginative Conservative YouTube Channel for this series and more.

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We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism.

We address a wide variety of major issues including: What is the essence of conservatism? What was the role of faith in the American Founding? Is liberal learning still possible in the modern academy? Should conservatives and libertarians be allies? What is the proper role for the American Republic in spreading ordered liberty to other cultures/nations?

We have a great appreciation for the thought of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt and Christopher Dawson, among other imaginative conservatives. However, some of us look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like.

We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.”

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

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2 replies to this post
  1. Brad and Winston,

    At 28:44, you associate Monster Trucks with success. Nice.

    On a slightly more serious note, can you explain yourself a bit more at around 28:20 (point #4). I'm just not seeing the various connections between Natural Law/Rights and other positions, and it’s this same knot I often find myself unable to untangle. I'm a bit dense with regards to the finer points of this overall Conservative conversation (though I’m eager to learn), so I'm sure the answers are right there. Because I don't subscribe to an Augustinian anthropology (though I like to think I understand it), I'm sure I'm misunderstanding some of the unstated connections throughout. All of my questions have obvious theological-anthropological concerns throughout (as did the last two parts of your interview, which prompted my questions–as the divine and human seem so intimately connected). As you've told me before, Brad, it's impossible for me NOT to be conservative with regards to theology. I agree and hence ask the following questions.

    "I have the right to myself; I have the right to my being, to my very property."

    Are you equating property with your very being? One's being, if I can paraphrase you, is given to us by God at Creation (even before Creation?). Can the same be said about one’s property? With what I own? This is very odd to me. I understand that one is one’s own property, as we are stewards of ourselves unto God. But even here something gives: do I really even own myself (beyond God's obvious claims to one's soul)? Doesn't your wife have a greater claim over you than you do? Her possession of you can't only be because you grant this claim to her, or else she really has no claim over you. Your children? Your students? Etc. Could you really make a Natural Law/Rights argument (I know it's problematic to conflate the two) that your wife has no claim over you? Seems odd.

    Or, to go in another direction on point #4: if I live in an age or in a culture in which I am not allowed to have property (I'm thinking here of "classes" throughout history, perhaps a la Aristotle), then do I really have no being (impossible), or are my Natural Rights being violated? If it's the latter, then what do we do with Saint Augustine's acceptance of slavery as an institution appropriate after the Fall? Are the effects of the Fall a la Augustine then assumed in Natural Rights? In other words, are Natural Rights only conceived as such as being post-lapsarian? Or are Natural Rights truly universal, outside the bounds of history? Did Aristotle just make a mistake? Is Augustine’s anthropology just a bit off here? Are they both right about the general conception of Natural Law but wrong on the particulars? Is their incorrect formulations accounted for only by their own historical context? If their misunderstanding is because of their historical context, then what deems ours more perspicacious? Time? The Church? Natural Law (via Reason)? You can see where this is going (cont.)


  2. Cont.

    Finally, in light of the above, what do we do with Burke's notion of Duties as you present them in the third part of the interview (a concept I like very much)? It seems that something has to give between Duties and Natural Law/Rights (or maybe nothing has to give, and I just need to be better read on these matters, or stop giving Burkean Duties my own/the Church’s Christian gloss). In other words, do my duties to my wife, children, etc. supersede/precede any claims to Natural Law/Rights? Or is Duty part of Natural Law? If it's the latter, and Natural Law is conceived of as only post-lapsarian, then do we need some sort of Grace to perform Duty? Or is some sense of struggle between self and other(s) already contained in Natural Law? Duty contains some sense of an Other person in the world (I find this completely reflective of the Trinitarian hypostases). Natural Law seems to be concerned primarily with oneself, with the individual. To put it barbarously: do I supersede/precede the Other person, or does the Other person precede me in these concerns over my being (see my first questions)? The answers here could most definitely be a both/and and not an either/or, but I’d need you to flesh that out for me. If Duty means giving up my Natural Rights (if Natural Rights are defined as my right over my being) and freely sacrificing myself to someone/something other than myself, then does Duty superseded/precede Natural Rights? If so, then whence Duty? Wouldn't Duty be more aligned with the Supernatural than it is with the Natural? And if Duty precedes Natural Law/Rights, then why would we aim only to preserve the latter–if Natural Law/Rights actually exist, especially in light of the fact that Duty may precede them so that we have another font of existence; or perhaps more appropriately, why should we hold Natural Law up as the highest (or is this simply the most Conservative position)? Is Duty simply something that cannot be codified (I'm perfectly comfortable and happy with this position)? But this position does little to explain Natural Law as a real phenomenon, especially in light of Duty.

    Obviously, there's no need to answer all of the particular questions here. A blanket statement that could lay out some sort of general explanation would be most helpful to me. I'm hoping that these questions will enable the two of you to expand on your excellent interview.


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